Environmental Protection

Mapping Tool Expanded to Include Arctic Waters

NOAA and the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement have expanded the online mapping tool used by emergency responders during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response to include the Arctic, calling this step important for any response needed in the region.

The Environmental Response Management Application, known as ERMA®, "will be a tremendous benefit to responders in this rapidly developing region," said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "This scientific tool could provide essential information in responding to potential oil spills and pollution releases in the Arctic."

"I know first-hand how critical it is for emergency responders to have the common operating picture ERMA provides," said BSEE Director James Watson. "With the potential for oil and natural gas development, as well as increased shipping activity offshore Alaska, it is essential that responders have access to real-time information that provides full situational awareness. That's why I'm so pleased that BSEE was able to partner with NOAA to help complete this invaluable application."

According to BSEE, ERMA combines all of the available information needed for an effective emergency response in the Arctic, including near-real-time oceanographic observations and weather data from NOAA and environmental, commercial, and industrial data information from BSEE and numerous other federal and state response agencies. Responders can customize it with data such as fishery closure areas, maps of resources at risk, and mariner notices.

BSEE's Watson on July 30 announced that the first full-scale deployment of well control equipment in deep Gulf of Mexico waters had been completed successfully. He said the 30-foot-tall, 100-ton capping stack system passed a pressurization test, the last item in the unannounced deployment drill that began July 24. The stack is stored near Houston and was towed to a location about 200 miles from shore for the exercise.

"This first-of-its-kind exercise reflects BSEE's full commitment to ensuring that safety and preparedness always come first. It's important to practice these types of deployments," Watson said, "so that we spur the industry to think through all of the processes and identify problems in an environment in which we can all learn and improve. If the industry should ever have to deploy this equipment in a real response, we will all be much better prepared as a result of this exercise."

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